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Lightning Round: the Bolts are dealing with more injuries, not fewer

The Lightning had to play 7 defensemen last night because they just didn’t have enough forwards vs. Chicago.

Chicago Blackhawks v Tampa Bay Lightning
TAMPA, FL - FEBRUARY 27: Mikhail Sergachev #98 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates against Olli Maatta #6 of the Chicago Blackhawks during the third period at Amalie Arena on February 27, 2020 in Tampa, Florida.
Photo by Scott Audette /NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning collapsed in the third period of their Thursday night game at home against Chicago, giving up five straight goals (four on a goalie) to snatech defeat from the jaws of victory. It was a penalty-filled affair that once again hurt the Lightning, though they didn’t allow a goal when the game was close. Unfortunately, the team’s problems came before the puck even dropped. Yes, injuries. Again.

“The Tampa Bay Lightning started the game with a very disassembled line-up. In addition to Jan Rutta and Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos was out due to a lower body injury, which was apparently bothering him for a long time. Pat Maroon was also given a rest with an unspecified injury and Blake Coleman was on a paternity leave with his wife who’s expecting a child. In their absence the Lightning went with a 11/7 roster.” [Raw Charge]

Before the game, we already understood that Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, and Steven Stamkos were all going to miss the game due to their short-, and medium-term injuries. Mitchell Stephens was called up to be the 12th forward in case Blake Coleman couldn’t play due to the birth of his child.

While Coleman wasn’t at the rink (fingers crossed we get some baby pictures soon), Pat Maroon also had to miss the game due to an undisclosed injury. This put the Lightning in major trouble as they only had 11 forwards available for the game. Thus, they were forced to ice an 11/7 roster with both Zach Bogosian and Luke Schenn. While Bogosian played about 15 minutes on the ice, Schenn only saw 4:31 of icetime in the game. He was just there to be there.

But this team still should’ve beaten the team from Chicago. They had 57% of the shot attempts in this game, including a plurality in the third period where they gave up five goals.

Goaltending has definitely been a issue this past week, with Andrei Vasilevskiy giving up 16 goals on 97 shots (.835 save percentage). Curtis McElhinney wasn’t any better in this game, giving up four goals on 26 shots for a .846 sv% effort. Vasy had been on form in 2020, having not given up more than three goals in a game until this past week when he did it three times in a row. McElhinney has been good, though a little inconsistent as a backup this year while playing about once a week. But looking at this game, McElhinney could’ve stopped less than four and the team still likely would’ve lost because they could only score two themselves.

I think the problem the Lightning had was losing momentum at key times and letting the game get away from them. Particularly in the form of penalties. The team has gotten caught cheating by not using their legs to skate on defense (this type of play primarily results in stick infractions because a player is just too far away to be more assertive with a check).

Hooking, tripping, slashing, and interference are the words of the day here and the Lightning got caught taking all of them in this game. Lately when the Lightning have made small mistakes like this, they’ve ballooned into big problems for an entire period or more.

The Bolts are at their best when they play their game, but more importantly when they’re able to get into a flow with consistent 5v5 play with a few power plays sprinkled in. Keeping special teams to a minimum work for the Lightning because their power play doesn’t need many chances to break a game wide open. Lately, they’ve been getting penalised a lot and I think it’s taken away from letting the team do what it does best to win.

“Up until Valentine’s Day, the Lightning penalty kill was one of the best units in the NHL, killing at an 84.2 percent rate that ranked second in the League. In the five games since Valentine’s Day, however, that number has dropped to 63.6 percent, 27th in the NHL over that stretch.” [NHL dot com]

Lightning Links

  • Igor was on the Quick Cap and wrote a really good summary of the loss.

“The Lightning seemed fine through the first two periods. The Blackhawks had a slight advantage in the first period but the Bolts stayed careful on their end and managed to return to their style of play in the second period, when they scored a goal. They doubled the score in the opening second of the third period, but were completely destroyed in the remaining part of the game.” [Raw Charge]

  • Bryan Burns has quotes from the game in his 3 Things column. [NHL dot com]
  • With Stephens up and presumably the someone from the Syracuse Crunch on their way to get the Lightning up to 12 healthy and available forwards, here is Geo’s refresher on how post-trade deadline recalls work. It has been very helpful. [Raw Charge]

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